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How our lifeguard saved my life



13 December 2017

Kay was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2011 and has tonic clonic seizures. She had a seizure in the pool at her Aqua Fit class when her lifeguard, Finn, saved her life. This is her story.

I was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2011. I used to love swimming but following a bad injury to my arm at work and my epilepsy diagnosis I became really frightened about being in the pool but at the beginning of this year I decided to try Aqua fit at Brighouse pool. I thought it would be good for my arm too as the impact is a lot less in water. I was really anxious at first but always go with my mum or a friend. I told the lifeguards I was epileptic. My confidence in the water grew and I started to go twice a week.

In November, I attended class but about 20 minutes in I began to feel strange, like I was watching everybody on a film, everything was really loud. I began to think it was an aura which I do get most of the time. I managed to indicate to my mum I didn’t feel well but don’t remember anything after that. I then started having a tonic clonic seizure and went under the water. My mum got to me but wasn’t able to pull me up. Within seconds she said the lifeguard Finn dived in the pool and pulled me up making sure my head was out of the water .. he then on his own got me safely on the pool side. At that point the alarm had sounded and all the sports centre staff came to help. They made sure my head was supported to stop me injuring it from the hard tiled floor as I was still fitting.

The moment I saw Kay start to go down it’s as if I just switched into some lifesaving robot, all the training we receive just comes so instinctively - Finn, Kay's lifeguard

The staff also supported my mum who was obviously very distressed. She has seen me have lots of seizures before but this was a lot more frightening for her due to it being in water. 

The staff gave the correct first aid for seizures and called an ambulance. My mum said that  Finn stayed at my side all the time keeping me safe and talked to me throughout even when I was unconscious, trying to reassure me that I was safe. I was blue lighted to the hospital.

I was told that night by the doctor in resus that I should feel very lucky that Finn acted so quickly pulling me out of the water to safety and that it could have been a very different outcome had it not being for his lifesaving skills. I do feel lucky ... very lucky and very thankful.

Finn had remembered me telling him I was epileptic so when he dived in the pool he knew exactly what he was dealing with.

Since the incident especially the day after I’ve been very on edge, a few sleepless nights with the events just replaying in my and Kay are pretty much in daily contact reassuring her and advising her and her being considerate to how it’s made me feel. Along with all the staff who have all been very supportive too. - Finn

Having a seizure in the pool was one of my worst fears and had really knocked my confidence. I haven’t been back in the pool yet but I know I need to sooner rather than later. 

This has highlighted just how important it is to make sure pool staff are aware of somebody is epileptic but also the importance of lifeguards. It shocks me that places like spas and hotels don’t always have lifeguards at the poolside. A lot of them have cameras but it worries me that there isn’t somebody sat watching that camera all the time. There would also be a time delay if they did see something in then actually getting to the pool. Surely more needs to be done to make it compulsory to have a lifeguard at all public pools.

It’s actually quite scary to think that there are pools that aren’t supervised as this can happen anywhere, could even be someone with undiagnosed epilepsy that has their first seizure in an unsupervised pool. If someone is going to watch a camera with full concentration they may as well be on poolside to avoid a delay in an emergency response and private pools should definitely hire lifeguards for this reason - Finn

Seconds really do matter when somebody becomes unconscious in water. 

I will always be so grateful to Finn for literally saving my life. 


Learn more about swimming and water sports with epilepsy here.

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Epilepsy Society.